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How to Stretch Your Back-to-School Budget

Janelle Cox

According to an Educational marketing survey, teachers spent an average of $490 of their own money on their classroom in 2015. As teachers, we don’t want to spend our own money, but unfortunately for most of us, ample money just isn’t in the back to school budget. Therefore it is up to us to purchase what we feel is a necessity for our classroom. In order to ensure our students are provided with everything that they need to have a successful school year, we take to our own pocketbooks, and spend the money. However, as the survey showed, it can be quite costly. So we must be creative and find new ways to stretch our back to school dollar so that our students will have what they need, and we can put some of that money back in to our pocketbook. Here are a few back to school money saving tips to help you cut the cost of those out-of-pocket classroom expenses.

Share Your Back to School Wish List

Every teacher has an ongoing wish list of all of the things they would love to have for their classroom, but just cannot afford to get. If these items are important to you, then you must share your list so that your students can get them. There are websites out there designed just for this specific reason, so go use them! Go to or and make a list of everything you need. It’s that easy, all you do is request what you want on the site, then donors can look at your list and choose what they want to purchase for you. It’s that simple, and it doesn’t even cost you a penny.

Work with What You Have

Work with the items and materials that you already have in your classroom, as well as in your home. If you look on Pinterest, there are many creative individuals that have come up with some amazing new ways to utilize what they already have. Did you know that if you cut open a gallon milk jug you can turn it into a pencil and art supplies holder? Or did you know that you can use baby wipe boxes to store classroom manipulates? There are literally thousands of ideas for reusing or repurposing items that you already have right in front of you. All you have to do is be a little creative or just search online for a little inspiration.

Clean Out Your Classroom

The easiest way to save money is to not spend any at all. How often do you clean out your classroom cabinets and desk? If you take the time to clean your classroom you may find a few things that you didn’t even know that you had. Better yet, suggest a clean-and-swap party with your fellow teachers. Their junk may just be your treasure.

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Compare Prices

When you’re shopping for groceries, do you compare prices on different brands in order to save a few bucks? If so, you need to do the same thing when it comes to school supplies. Technology is so amazing that someone came up with a website that will compare items for you. All you have to do is go to and it will make sure that you are getting the best deal. It’s an easy way to put some money back into your pocket.

Use an App

Technology has made it so simple for you to save money. The Slice app will track everything that you buy online as well as notify you if the price of an item has dropped. If the price did indeed drop after you bought it, then they will send you a refund! Talk about genius, this app will be your new money-saving best friend.

Shop Ahead of Time

One of the easiest ways that you can save money on your back-to-school supplies is to shop in advance. If you see a great deal on something and you know that you won’t need it to the following year, don’t hesitate to buy it. Just as all holiday items are cheaper after the holiday has ended, so are school supplies. Once school has started that is your best time to purchase any times you may need. You will get the best discount a few weeks after school has already begun.

Buy in Bulk

Wholesale stores such as Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s are a great option for teachers because you can get an item in bulk for a very low price. Now you may think, “What do I need 500 pencils for when I only have 20 students?” But if you think about it, you might teaching for a lot of years, and you will need a lot of pencils throughout those years, so you should get them at a discount price -- it’s not like they will spoil. Buy it now and store it for later instead of waiting until you really need it.

How do you save money throughout the school year? Do you have any smart and savvy tips for our readers? Please share your ideas in the comment section below.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for, as well as a contributing writer to and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.

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